The Legal Investigator The Legal Investigator,Vol.37, Issue 1 Spring 2012 : Page 2
batson investigations Conducting a by Kitty Hailey, CLI Batson Investigation to Determine Bias Understanding Batson Voir dire is the process of selecting a jury. The words are French and mean simply, “to see or understand” and “to say or to tell.” The voir dire process is a method of systematically observing potential jurors from a pool of individuals residing in the community. In a criminal case, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, along with the judge, question these individuals to determine their appropriateness for a jury panel. The jury panel is referred to as the Venire. Individuals within the Venire are referred to as Venire Person(s). The voir dire is vital in understanding the Venire Person, his or her background and social preferences. The pool from which they are selected may be small (30-50) individuals or larger, depending on the case needs. Highly publicized cases often go into the hundreds of potential jurors. Twelve men and women, plus alternates, are ultimately selected to sit in judgment of the defendant accused of a crime. All attorneys wish to have sympathetic jurors on their side. There are, however, limits to which they should and can go to achieve these goals. Prosecutors wish to have stable members of society who are most likely to the legal investigator “ 4 “Providing an accused with the right to be tried by a jury of his peers gave him an inestimable safeguard against the corrupt or overzealous prosecutor and against the compliant biased or eccentric judge.” 1 “Twelve Archie Bunkers will convict on little evidence.” 2 One of the greatest pleasures, and most daunting challenges, of being an investigator is the ability to uncover and expose the wrongs of society, including racism and gender bias. Batson v. Kentucky (476 U.S. 79, 1986) created the standard for keeping such biases out of juries. In the quarter-century since Batson , abuse of the jury selection process still plagues our judicial system long after Batson became the seminal case against racial bias. It sometimes falls to legal investigators, particularly in post conviction, to determine whether Batson was violated, along with a defendant’s Sixth Amendment Rights. To investigate a Batson claim, the investigator must first understand it. Prior to Batson , prosecutors were known to systematically remove Blacks from a jury when a defendant was Black. Unfortunately — post Batson — this still occurs.